By Devin O’Connor
Macau and Hong Kong are once again delaying an arrangement that would allow residents to come and go more freely between the two Chinese Special Administrative Regions (SAR).
The two regions, separated by the Pearl River Delta, have been working on a “health passport” scheme that would assure entry officials that the person arriving is clear of the COVID-19 virus. Currently, people coming and going between the two SARs must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Hong Kong officials revealed this week that the region needs additional time to “review” the health safety card system.
“We need to review when the health code pilot program for Guangdong-Hong Kong and Hong Kong-Macau should be implemented,” said Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Her comments were first reported by GGRAsia.
Lam said Hong Kong has seen “rapid changes” regarding the “pandemic situation throughout the past few days, as over 60 new infection cases were confirmed locally.”
Macau reported its first new coronavirus case late last month after nearly 80 days of being free of COVID-19 patients.
Macau’s economy is reeling because of the pandemic. Casinos — the enclave’s economic lifeline — are nearly empty, though the local government is requiring them to stay open and keep people employed.
Visitation to Macau has come to a screeching halt, as only people coming from mainland China, Taiwan, or Hong Kong can enter — and those who are granted access must quarantine for two weeks. Visitor arrivals in May totaled just 16,133, down from 3,396,835 in May 2019.
The hotel occupancy rate for the 33,900 guestrooms in Macau during May 2020 was just 12.3 percent. During the same month last year, the occupancy rate was 90.4 percent.
Rooms naturally went cheap, the average rate for a five-star room being MOP1,385 ($173.64), compared with $198.09 in May 2019.
Gross gaming revenue (GGR) totaled just $90 million last month – a loss of nearly $3 billion.
The Macau government announced this week that it’s ending special ferry service between the Taipa Ferry Terminal and Hong Kong International Airport on July 16. The US Consulate General for Hong Kong and Macau warned US citizens today that they should return immediately to the United States.
Transportation options from Macau to the United States may be unavailable after July 16. If you choose to stay overseas, you should be prepared to remain where you are for the foreseeable future,” the message stated.
Macau’s most recent COVID-19 patient tested positive in the region after arriving in Macau via the Taipa Ferry Terminal. The man, a resident of the Philippines, arrived in China by way of Hong Kong International Airport and then ventured to Macau by boat.
Macau health officials say they’re closely monitoring Hong Kong’s recent upward trend in coronavirus cases, and that a continued surge could lead to even tighter entry restrictions.